Slovenia, rhymes with Slovakia, at least in my head. But don’t make the mistake with the locals or you risk invisible daggers shooting from their eyes and into your soul.
We arrived in Ljubljana after a crazy 10-hour overnight sprint through Germany and Austria (officially Europe’s biggest rip-off country; we had to pay €8.50 for a 10-day road tax vignette even though we were just passing through, and nearly €20 in tolls to drive through a few measly tunnels. Total time spent in Austria: four hours. Ouch.), incredibly tired but mostly just thankful that little Jagger carried us all the way there without a hitch.
Ljubljana is small but a pretty rad looking city. There’s a quaint little city centre with a river and a market, small bars and pubs lining the streets near the waterway with loads of outdoor seating that is ideal for people-watching. The streets are winding and narrow, the buildings old and charming. There’s also the typical governmental institutions with their stately symmetry, colourful and elegant churches, and small squares decorated with fountains. North of the castle between the river and the main train station is the hipster district (a must-have for any proper European city), with buildings spattered in graffiti tags and street art, skate shops, and hole-in-the-wall bars.
Ljubljana also had something we would have never expected to see: crazy vending machines. We first happened upon this milk vending machine in the central market area and Mook, being the dairy-loving German he is, immediately jumped at the opportunity to give the MLEKOmat a try. Fresh cow’s milk for €1 per litre, and you can buy as little or as much as you’d like.
There were other vending machines as well, almost always selling meat and dairy products. This one sold yogurt, cheeses and sausages (most notably venison sausage), and we found another that even dispensed hemp biscuits and donkey salami. Banging!
Another great thing about Ljubljana was the free, drinkable tap water everywhere. It seems that they really encourage people to drink from the tap instead of buying bottled water, which is awesome. This is something we really miss now that we’re in Hungary.
The downsides of Ljubljana was that it was surprisingly expensive (especially the hostels), that (some) locals are definitely out to overcharge tourists (tacking on extras seems to be their favourite technique), and that there are shitloads of tourists at this time of year. Hello, summer. We also caught one sad-looking German stag do and one English hen party, so if the Ljubljana tourist board is interested, the market potential is there.
Ljubljana also has Metelkova, a large complex of buildings that was originally a military barracks, but was squatted after the Yugoslavian army left and turned into an artistic, cultural and social creative centre. Nowadays along with residences, galleries and who knows what else, the complex contains a whopping six clubs that play music spanning from punk to techno to RnB. It’s fucking cool.
Unfortunately, Metelkova was also overrun with tourists when we visited on Saturday night. There was a pretty cool tech house night on at the smallest venue, Jalla Jalla, but along with the usual suspects you’d see at a left-wing enclave of alternative culture, there was lots of 16-year-old girls in bodycon dresses, people’s mothers looking incredibly out of their element, and guys who looked like they had just rocked up off their yacht. Which would be fine if all these people were actually interested in going to a tech house night, but in reality it was all a bit awkward. Thanks, Trip Advisor!
We went back during the day to check it out and, yep, it still looks fucking cool.
Next stop was Bled, because Mook wanted to go zorbing at a campground nearby. Bled is quite pretty, but massively touristy and expensive. When we finally got to the campground, it bucketed down rain and we couldn’t go zorbing. Fail.
It’s small, quaint but slightly industrial, not as touristy and Ljubljana, and home to the oldest grape vine in the world. Definitely worth a visit if you like wine because they’ve got absolutely loads of it and they’d love to show you around. We unfortunately had to skip most of it as we had a hot date in Hungary, but while in Maribor we did get to stay at a student dormitory with the most pornarific bathroom you’ll ever see in a twin room:
Our final complaint about Slovenia would be that they wouldn’t sell us booze at Lidl after 9pm on a Tuesday night in Maribor. It was literally 9:03pm when we rocked up to the cash register, but still the cashier refused. Thankfully we were able to buy a bottle of ice-cold red for only €10 from a bar nearby.
With its beautiful landscape, smooth roads and funky left-wing capital, Slovenia made for a cool first country on our trip.